The planets are shifting, or something … looks like 2007 could be the most interesting year for the IT industry for quite a while. 


Of course, that assumes that the world will neither end nor be plunged into World War III (that would probably be written as WW3.0 in our industry).
It’s amazing to see predictions of gloom and doom all over: ranging from WW3.0 and a previously-unknown comet popping out from behind the sun and hammering Earth, to the inevitable “Revenge of Gaia” forecasts where earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters abound, making life all but intolerable.
However, I’m taking the glass half-full approach and assuming none of these cataclysms will happen. So what can we expect in the next year?
Let’s get the obvious over first: Vista will (finally) make it to market at the end of January and cause a nice up-tick in PC sales – initially for home users and small businesses and later, once everyone’s made sure the system actually works more or less as advertised, by larger businesses.
The side effect here, apart from increased numbers of PCs being sold, is that each PC will have to be bigger than before (1Gb to 2Gb RAM and 160Gb hard drive are the recommended minimums by those in the know), so that will mean bigger revenues.
The other one is that for the first time in the past half-century, IBM will no longer be the world’s biggest computer company. That crown will be taken by HP. Of course, they won’t be the world’s most profitable computer company (yet, anyway) …
The other obvious bits: we’re going to see ever-increasing use of all electronic media, slowly replacing much of the printed page (I get 80% of my news electronically now); and video is going to take over the world to an increasing extent – at least the developed parts of it that have decent bandwidth (I’m really looking forward to the SNO bringing about a big drop in bandwidth prices and increase in availability so I can watch those Webcasts that are proliferating).
In this past year we saw Rupert Murdoch lambasted as a fool over the huge price he paid for MySpace and then lambasted again as a grasping miser when he sold some rights to it for over 50% more than he paid for the whole thing (people then saying he underpaid for MySpace in the first place).
Social networking is going to continue to grow exponentially, raising all sorts of security problems as people increasingly part with personal information in these environments (and I’m not even going to get into that weird Second Life movement here).
All of this, of course, is going to have the traditional companies scrambling to buy startups to try and get an early lead in new technologies and so keep/get ahead of their competition.
This will lead to a few of those “25-year-olds in a garage” making enormous fortunes for unworkable ideas again – Internet Bubble 2.0 if you like.
No, not all the ideas will be unworkable and some will become part of everyday life in an amazingly short time, but I suspect more than half will prove to be a waste of money for the acquirers. Maybe this will lead to the next stock market crash which the doomsayers will have us believe is on the horizon.
I think a lot of the successful acquisitions will be about protecting us and our data from ourselves (read: crass stupidity) and the malevolent dark forces that seem to be increasingly trying to get their hands on our bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
But it won’t be just startups being acquired …
Could mainland China acquire Taiwan – at least in the form of Lenovo acquiring Acer?
This could be interesting: Lenovo’s not been doing as well as it hoped with its own brand at the low-end. Acer, on the other hand, has done well at the low-end, but is unable to make the jump into the corporate space in a big way.
Lenovo buys Acer which then becomes its low-end brand, complementing the high-end IBM corporate stuff. And, of course, China takes over a nice chunk of the Taiwanese economy in the process …
And while we’re talking Lenovo acquisitions – what about Lexmark? They could do with a printer brand, and Lexmark would be a good choice (the people know each other after all, as both came from IBM where they shared offices). It would also stick it to Dell somewhat – can’t see Lenovo continuing to supply Dell with printers.
Actually, Dell’s had something of an “annus horribilus” in 2006, having lost their market lead back to HP and now mired in all sorts of financial investigations meaning delayed results and speculation as to what has been going on.
Will 2007 be the year when Dell is involved in a major merger/acquisition? Its share price is 10% down for the year, as against HP’s 50% gain and Sun’s gain of nearly 20% … hold on, Sun and Dell makes a lot of sense – dovetailing product ranges, complementary customers, similar go-to-market models (at least in terms of not using the channel except where they absolutely have to), and so on. Could be interesting …
So, we can expect to leave 2007 with the IT world somewhat different – new leaders overall, some old brands merging (who’d have even considered IBM and Acer as potential bedfellows five years ago?) and a whole lot of churn in the small company space. But, among all of this, a good year for sales …